The mid-’90s to the early years of the 2000s were an interesting time in American music, when bands like Sum 41, Blink-182 and Green Day dominated the Top 40, and pop punk became an inescapable radio fixture. But along with the mainstreaming of punk rock, Christian bookstore shelves were stocked with dozens of albums from CCM’s own brand of pop punk music.
Here’s our look back at 15 of the Christian punk’s most memorable bands from the glory days of the genre. (Note: Even though there’s been a ton of punk-inspired bands since the movement’s heyday, our rankings—which are, obviously, extremely official, and should not be questioned in the slightest—focus on bands active in the late-’90s to early 2000s good old days. Also, like a lot of “Christian music” genres, some of the bands have disputed the label of being “Christian” bands. But, for the sake of our rankings, we’ve chosen artists who have put out music on Christian labels and are generally associated with “Christian” music).
Peak Punk Album: Teenage Politics, 1995
More than 20 years after forming, the pop punk pioneers are still at it. MxPx is one of the genre’s most successful acts, with nine studio albums under their belt, a gold record (1998’s Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo) and crossover recognition. They still know the allure of a good old fashioned punk-rock show.
2. Relient K
Peak Punk Album: Self-Titled, 2000
Though Matt Thiessen and company evolved since their 2000 release, it was their early self-titled debut that put their earnest brand of pop punk on the map. Their penchant for pop-culture references (Marty McFly, Charles in Charge and Nancy Drew are all name-dropped on the album), tongue-in-cheek lyrics and self-awareness have made them as millennial as a BuzzFeed listicle.
3. Five Iron Frenzy
Peak Punk Album: Our Newest Album Ever!, 1997
Five Iron Frenzy — who reunited in 2012 — may have a ska-style horn section, but with their subversive lyrics, wild live shows and sense of humor, they’re a punk band at heart.
4. Ghoti Hook
Peak Punk Album: Banana Man, 1997
Christian punk rock’s answer to Blink-182, the three piece’s music was as much about joking around as it was about anything else. Banana Man remains a classic of the genre.
5. Slick Shoes
Peak Punk Album: Wake Up Screaming, 2000
More technically proficient than some of their peers, Slick Shoes wrote catchy, polished songs (if pop punk was your thing) during their turn-of-the-millennium heyday. They’ve reunited a few times over the years and even dropped a new album last year. It’s pretty good!
6. Squad Five-O
Peak Punk Album: Fight the System, 1998
Known for their high-energy ska/punk fusion and speaking out against what they saw as hypocrisy in the way “Christian” music was marketed, Squad Five-O was a staple of the late-’90s scene.
Peak Punk Album: Through Thick & Thin, 1997
Faster and harder than other jokey punk outfits, Dogwood wasn’t the most popular band in the genre, but their fans were some of the most loyal.
8. The O.C. Supertones
Peak Punk Album: Supertones Strike Back, 1997
Sure, they’re a ska band. But you can’t listen to singles like “Supertones Strike Back” without hearing the pop punk backbone.
9. Ninety Pound Wuss
Peak Punk Album: Self-Titled, 1995
Admit it, if felt pretty cool to buy a CD that had the word “wuss” in the title at a Christian bookstore in the mid-’90s.
10. Craig’s Brother
Peak Punk Album: Homecoming, 1998
Fast, loud and laced with big guitar riffs—everything you want in a late-’90s punk band.
11. The Huntingtons
Peak Punk Album: High School Rock, 1998
The Huntingtons were basically a modern homage to the Ramones, with members all taking the same last name on stage while pounding out three-chord pop-punk anthems.
12. Watashi Wa
Peak Punk Album: Lost a Few Battles… Won the War, 2000
Before there was Lakes, there was Watashi Wa, a light-hearted punk band with a cool name and witty lyrics.
Peak Punk Album: Self-Titled, 1999
The short-lived pop-punk outfit combined metal sensibility with skate-rock sound. Their underrated self-titled debut wasn’t enough to keep them take together though; they broke-up shortly after the release of 2003’s Transparent.
14. Noggin Toboggan
Peak Punk Album: Snapcase, 1999
With a name like Noggin Toboggan, you knew what you were getting into.
15. Sick of Change
Most Punk Rock Album: In Our Time of Need, 1999
Another short-lived band—they only released two albums over three years—Sick of Change is remembered for their technical guitar work, dark sound and lack of headwear puns.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.